August is Tradies National Health Month - Protect yourself against low back pain

August is Tradies National Health Month, so we've put together some information and exercises to help you protect yourself from low back pain.

Low Back Pain is an extremely common health problem. In fact up to 80% of Australians experience low back pain at some point in their life. Chronic low back pain can be incredibly disruptive to normal life patterns including work, family and social activities, hence why many people are seeking help. Back pain however does not always correlate with ‘’damage’’, in fact only 10% of people with back pain require surgical or other invasive management. It is widely believed that low back pain is attributed to increased sensitisation of the many and varied structures within the back. While symptoms are sometimes sudden and triggered by a particular movement direction, other times the onset is slow and without an identifiable trigger. Regardless, there are things we can do to help reduce pain and improve function during an episode of back pain. Interestingly it is often a combination of physical and psychological intervention that will see best results.

It is becoming increasingly evident that our psychological state can significantly influence our recovery from episodes of low back pain. So it is important that we address this and ensure we are not getting bogged down by unhelpful thoughts about our back pain that make it more difficult to get better. Sometimes we stop moving as we think this will ‘’damage’’ our back further. This belief however is untrue and actually creates behaviour that hinders recovery. Dealing with the fear surrounding re-injury and the ability to enjoy ‘’normal life’’ again is a significant step to recovery. The statistics tell us that most people recover within 6 weeks with many recovering much sooner. So stay positive and be reassured that things will get better! It is important to stay reasonably active, to continue working with a reduced load if possible and to continue being involved in social activities as all these things contribute to our overall sense of wellbeing and therefore enhance the recovery process.

Research also tells us there are a number of things we can do to physically manage our symptoms and stay on top of our pain. As already mentioned, just moving about and staying as active as possible is important. Light general exercise such as walking, cycling, and swimming are great ways to continue moving. Working on core pelvic and spine stabilising muscles have also shown to improve pain and function. When pain is present, our spine stabilising muscles tend to ‘’switch off’’ leaving our bigger, more global muscles to do the work. Whilst they might be capable of managing our load they are not efficient in stabilising the spine and maintaining long term strength. Often what is seen are muscle and postural imbalances as our global muscles attempt to hold our body in position while avoiding pain. Working on our deeper, stabilizing muscles helps to “switch them back on’’ and is key to ensuring long term improvement in pain and function..

 A few simple exercises to start with are:

Pelvic Tilt

Pelvic Tilt Diagram.jpg

Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet flat on the floor. Pull your belly-button towards your spine and clench your buttock muscles to roll the pelvis up off the floor flattening your back. Then roll the pelvis towards the floor while arching your back. Repeat.

Knee Drop-outs:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Initiate your core stability muscles by drawing your belly button into your spine. Gradually drop both knees out to one side. Whilst doing this movement, make sure your pelvis does not twist to follow the movement of your knees. Control the movement as you bring your knees back up to the start position. The key is to keep your trunk and pelvis still and not to arch your lower back. It is only a small range of movement so make sure you control it well and only go as far as you can without the opposite hip/pelvis lifting off the floor. Repeat on each side.

Leg Slides:

Lie on your back with your knees bent and your feet flat on the floor. Initiate your core stability muscles by drawing your belly button into your spine. Slowly slide one leg down to lie straight on the floor. Keep your core muscles activated whilst you slide the same leg back up to the starting position. Do this slowly and make sure your knee continues pointing straight up to the ceiling throughout the exercise. Ensure you keep your trunk and pelvis still and do not allow your lower back to arch as you alternate this movement with each leg.

These exercises may seem simple but are very effective in developing good spinal stability if executed correctly. It is important to receive the appropriate feedback and advice to ensure these exercises are being performed well in order to achieve optimal results.  Accordingly this makes no substitute for seeing a health professional who has many other tips and tools at their disposal for the comprehensive management of back pain. 

At Active Physio there are a number of programs on offer which may help with back pain such as a 10 week rehabilitation program called ‘’bounce back’’, pilates classes,  and one-on-one assessment and treatment from one of our friendly physios. If you are struggling with ongoing back pain, please call and make an appointment to see a physio today. 


Cristy Houghton